My Casa Bella







-Thomas Osbourne Davis

Welcome To My Casa Bella

My Casa Bella- means-my beautiful home- but it can mean so many other things. How you make your home a home. The sounds of children or pets playing. The aroma of scones in the oven or a lilac candle burning. The flowers blooming in your garden. The home grown vegetables ready to be picked. Grandma's quilt at the foot of the bed. A fire to curl up to with a good book. Or just a family spending time together with love, laughter and a good time.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Our Ocean Getaway

I would have to say my FAVORITE getaway would have to be to the ocean!! My husband and I enjoy traveling, we've seened different places, but I'd have to say I absolutely LOVE the ocean!! The smells, the sounds, the sand, even hearing the seagulls fly over, it is such a comforting and relaxing place for me to be. I will sit on the beach for hours reading and listening to the waves crashing in. I even enjoy the squeals of the children playing in the sand or when the water gets too close they're running and screaming, or when they see a small crab appear, it is so funny hearing them. I'd prefer to hear children screaming and playing then hearing people carry on a loud conversation as if they're the only ones there, that to me is annoying. No need to talk so loud that everyone in the 1/2 mile radius on the beach can hear what you ate last night, or that you went to a club the night before and got drunk, seriously, does everyone need to know all that?? I just want to hear the kids play, the waves crash in, and hear the seagulls going over me while I relax and read my new book, which by the way, I bought "My Life in France" by Julia Child and I could not put it down. Now I cannot wait to see the movie "Julie and Julia". Wonderful book to read on vacation. I also now want to learn how to cook French Cuisines, thanks to Julia
Well, now we're back from our vacation, and my hubby and I are so grateful that my in-laws own a condo just one block from the ocean. It's WONDERFUL!! We ate well, too well, I'm on a diet now...but the food was incredible. So, now back to our routines, that was a wonderful break, I am ready to go back though. I can smell the salt water now!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Greencastle PA Annual Sidewalk Sales

My friend Valerie and I decided at the last minute to be a part of the Annual Sidewalk Sales held at a local town. They've been doing this for several years now and she and I did it a few times several years ago. So we partnered up with Denise, the owner of Anna's Paperworks in downtown Greencastle, PA:

Valerie and I sell some of our products in her store so we were able to use the space out front. Our display was so pretty, the white canopy makes it looks so chic and dreamy. It stands out which draws people over, which is the We did well, considering how the economy is right now. It's understandable that so many of us are hanging onto our money these days, but it's nice when some decide if they like something enough, they'll buy it. So we had fun. Then suddenly:

The weather man said "rain in the late evening into Sunday morning." Well, by 2:30 the sky was looking scary. Dark clouds going over us, wind picking up. We kept hoping it was going to come later, after the craft show was over, but of course it didn't. It came down so fast, but thank goodness between four of us we were able to throw everything into Denise's store. And thank goodness for Denise's store, otherwise we would of been like many others who were soaked by the time they packed up and took their tents down. So Denise's shop was trashed:

It's amazing how fast you can move when you don't want to get wet. But thankfully for Denise's understanding we were able to move everything into her store then pack it up. It was quite an ending to our weekend. One we won't forget. Our next show will be in Thurmont MD at the annual Colorfest October 10 and 11. So I've got to get to sewing and crafting. That's 13 weeks for me, seems like enough but it's not. Time goes by way too fast. If you're in the area in October come and see us.
Also, if you're ever in Greencastle, PA visiting, come see Denise's shop:

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Creative Bloggers Out There

I'm amazed how many bloggers there are out there in the internet world. So many to look at and choose from. But there are a few that I really enjoy reading, and looking at their pictures. The way they write their stories. How they take their pictures and post them. There are many creative bloggers out there and they're fun to read. So I chose 10 bloggers that I thoroughly enjoy and I want to give them an award.

This award was given to me by Melissa, from The Vintage Attic. She's the one who pushed me into blogging and now I can't stop. So here are my choices:

1- My Romantic Home
2- Cynthia's Cottage Design
3- Parisienne Farmgirl
4- A Romantic Country Home
5- A Romantic Porch
6- An Enchanted Cottage
7- Southern Hospitality
8- The Beehive Cottage
9- The Classic Farmhouse
10- Jane's Sweets Baking Journal

Although these are only few of many, it's your turn to pass on this award to your favorite bloggers as well. Congratulations on doing a great job with your blogs and posting beautiful pictures.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Family Visits

So my parents drove down from NYC to visit this past weekend. Mom and dad visit quite often now that they have a granddaughter, she's actually the only grandchild in our family. She belongs to my brother and his wife. My niece, my love who stole my heart the first time I held her.

So tiny in my arms, I fell in love. She has been a big part of our lives. I thank my sister-in-law for allowing us to whisk my niece away on the weekends. At first, when my brother told her that he'd like us to take their daughter so she can spend time with us and get to know us, my poor sister-in-law about had a heart attack. There was no way she was letting ANYONE take her daughter away for even the day, let alone the weekend.....he was insane. Now, she wants to know when I want my niece and how long would we like for her to stay with So my DH and I will pick up my baby girl and she'll spend one or two nights with us. She is so much fun, at the age of two, she is a ball of energy. Loves to make you laugh, loves the camera, and loves to show-off. My parents, her grandparents, are loving every moment they can have with her, especially since they live 250 miles away. But she knows her grandpa and grandma, and she loves them. So we had lots of fun this past weekend, watching my niece perform for us, letting her steal our hearts more and more everytime she's with us.
(Sorry, there were pictures of myself and my family in this post, but I started to receive emails from someone I did not know asking me personal questions that he didn't need to know, so DH asked me to remove any photos that had people in them. So I did. Isnt' that a shame?)

Gluten Free Pretzel Salad

I never heard of Pretzel Salad until I moved to PA. I received a recipe for this when I moved here and couldn't understand how this could be a dessert when you use pretzels!!! Well, when I tried it for the first time, I couldn't believe how delicious it was and now I love making it in the summer. Of course, the recipe is not originally Gluten Free, but I made it that way just this passed weekend. I'm trying to avoid gluten or wheat products. Anything that is made with wheat which is pretty much everything we eat!!! But thank goodness, gluten free has come a long way. I have health problems, which I think many of us who live in this country do, thanks to our diets. So, I noticed when I avoid wheat products I feel so much better. I don't have celiacs disease or anything like that, but I do think I have an intolerance for gluten products. So anyways, I try to tweak recipes. Thanks to the internet, there are a ton of gluten free recipes out there.
So for those of you who are new to this gluten free way of living, I thought I'd post a recipe for you. A dessert at that....yum.

I got this particular recipe from Kraft Foods Magazine.

You'll need 2 Cups of finely crushed pretzels (gluten free pretzels). The Wylde brand I have pictured is really good. I can't taste the difference. I used a food processor. First I started out with the pretzels in a ziploc bag and was smashing them, great way to get out any frustrations, but it was taking too long so the food processor did a great job.

2 Cups of finely crushed pretzels
1/4 cup of sugar (I used raw sugar, personal preference)
2/3 cup of butter or margarine melted.
Heat oven to 350. Mix pretzels crumbs, sugar and butter, then press onto the bottom of a 13x9 baking pan.
(I cover my fingers with plastic wrap and push down the crumb mixture, that seems to work well)
Bake for 10 minutes, remove from oven and let cool.

Cream Cheese Mixture:
1 1/2 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup of sugar
2 Tbsp. milk
1 cup of thawed cool whip
Beat cream cheese, sugar and milk til blended. Stir in cool whip. Spread over crust and refrigerate.
Now, it will seem like you do not have enough of this to spread across the crust, but you will. It takes patience to carefully spread this. Although, next time, I will double this part of the recipe. I like a little more cream cheese filling.

2 cups of boiling water
1 package (6 oz.) Jello strawberry gelatin
1 1/2 cups of cold water
1 qt. or 4 cups of fresh sliced strawberries
Add boiling water to gelatin mix in large bowl, stir 2 minutes until completely dissolved. Stir in cold water. Refrigerate 1 1/2 hours or until thickend. Stir in strawberries, spoon over cream cheese layer. Refrigerate 3 hours or until firm.
I made this the night before just to make sure it would set. Be sure there are not gaps between cream cheese layer and sides of pan. You don't want the jello to get in there and get the crust soggy.

Well, I hope you enjoy this. It is delicious. There are several steps to it, but I think its worth it. My niece loved this dessert. And I didn't tell anyone it was gluten free until after they ate it, and they could not believe it. Everyone one of them had more the next evening. I wish my final picture looked as pretty as the magazine shows, but hey, I'm not a professional, but I am a professional

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Can You Take the City Out of The Girl????

If you would of told me years ago that I would be digging in dirt where worms live, and insects fly around your head and sometimes up your nose or into your ears, I would of said, "you're insane, get outta here" as New Yorkers love to say...there would be no way you would catch me outside in the dirt with bugs around me!! Why? In New York City we have fruit and veggie stands everywhere. They're just as good. I wounldn't leave the comforts of a deli in every corner where I could get my bagel and coffee and then go down the street to a fruit stand and pick up "fresh" fruit or vegetables.
Well my friends, here I am. In southcentral PA and I'm digging in dirt where worms live and an occasional bug gets up my nose. But that's ok, it's actually worth it. I find nothing more rewarding and relaxing then digging in the dirt and seeing the fruits of my labor. Right now the garden looks a little crazy. I planted 15 yes 15 tomatoes. Pepper, onions, arugala, basil, parsley, and cucumber. Why so many tomatoes, because last summer I thoroughly enjoyed making my own spaghetti sauce. Something I never thought I would do either. So this year I am making sure I have enough tomatoes to make sauce.
So, can you take the city out of the girl? No!!!! I am still a city girl at heart, and I miss it every once in awhile, but we live close enough that we can drive up to NYC and spend the weekend there. But by the end of that weekend, I look forward to coming home and digging in my garden.

I thought since I lost room in my veggie garden, I'd plant Kale out by my flower beds. I think they look pretty there. This morning as I walked around my yard taking pictures, I couldn't believe how healthy and green everything is. Of course, we've had more rain this year than any other year for years. We've had one unusual spring/summer. This morning I felt like I was in New England. This type of summer reminds me of New England Summers. Cool in the morning, a little warmer in the day and cool at night. We have yet to put in our airconditioners. My poor dad, when he and mom come to visit this weekend he will have a fit that there are no air conditioning units in the windows in our home. Now there is one person you cannot take the city out

I planted these deep purple pansies and I love how almost black they look. I've never seened them before and I just think they're absolutely beautiful. Very mystique, I think. This should show you how cool our weather down here has been. Usually by mid June, I have to dig up all my Pansies because they get leggy and look so worn out becuase of the heat. Not this year. We're in July and they're still going strong.

These windown boxes are under my workshop windows. Which is so nice, when I sit at my work table which is in front of one of the windows, I get to see these beautiful flowers. I just love how pretty everything looks. Although I do need to get out there and weed my garden beds and veggie garden before it takes over.
But here you have it, I do love to garden, although it shouldn't be surprising since my mom loves planting as well. Although she too was born and raised in NYC, and she never had a garden, we had a mini "forest" in our apartment growing up. You had to move the plants or the vines aside if you wanted to look out the window. Mom had every window in the apartment covered in plants. Except for my room and my brothers room. If we let her she would of taken over those as well, but she didn't. So I must get my gardening bug from her. You see, I think we were meant to be country folk, but that's ok, I loved living in NYC and I love living in PA.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Puerto Rican Food

If you've never had Puerto Rican food, then I have to say, you are missing out!!! It is the most flavorful, colorful, aromatic food that is absolutely amazing. My family background is, as I'm sure you can guess, from Puerto Rico, as well as from Spain, and Portuguese, as well as some other nationalities. Of course how many of us can say our families are only from one country? Not too many...that's what makes us so interesting.
I learned how to cook when I was eight years old. My mom taught me. I loved watching mom cook as a kid. I'd stand by her side asking her all kinds of questions. What is that for, why do you add that, can I taste, can I stir? Mom was patient with me, and I thoroughly am grateful that she showed me and let me make mistakes. Til this day, I love to cook and bake. I am always trying new recipes. I'm guilty of trying new things when company is coming. My mother-in-law cannot get over that...she calls me brave woman. Food should be fun to not only eat but to make. But my favorite will always be Puerto Rican food. Below you'll see the process of making homemade dried beans, then rice and after that some moist and delicious chicken. It brings back so many memories. If only you could smell the aroma in my kitchen. There is nothing like it. This is my comfort food.
Thank you mom for taking out the time to teach me, I love you so much.

The beans boil for two minutes. Then I remove it from the heat and let it sit for one hour. I pour out the water, add fresh cold water and a ham hock. I cut up an onion and smash some fresh garlic and add it to the beans. I let that boil for an hour. Then, I add sofrito. What is that you ask? It is a mixture of peppers, onions, cilantro, and garlic. You blend that in a blender until pureed, and Voila! you have sofrito. It is delicious. You add this to beans, you can rub it on meat before baking, you can add it to soups. And it lasts a very long time in your fridge. You store it in a glass jar or you can freeze it.
I add sofrito and tomato sauce along with other spices. I let this boil while I prepare the rice and chicken. Oh the aroma!!!

Now the second step, time to get the rice going. Love, Love, Love rice. This is what I grew up eating, and I still can't get enough of it. Even my husband loves rice, thank goodness!!! There are times I'll even catch him eating out of the pot when he thinks I'm not looking. So now I have to warn him not to touch the rice leftover since it's our dinner for tomorrow as well.........I saute the rice in about 2 tablespoons of Olive Oil, until it starts to turn white, then add the hot water, add salt to taste and let it come to a boil until the majority of the water evaporates, I stir it up, then add the lid and let it cook for 20 minutes. Perfect rice every time.

I love spices. I could easily collect spices, of all things, but that may not be practical unless I use them all. But I do enjoy going to kitchen stores and the grocery store to check out spices. You can be sure my food is not bland with this collection, and I still have more in my fridge. I read somewhere that you should keep red and brown spices in the fridge to keep the color and flavor fresh and that's what I do. They certainly last longer. So, now what spices do I want to use today??? HMMMMMM

The third step is to get the chicken marinated, then breaded. I use a combination of flour and breadcrumbs. If I just use flour then it gets soggy, if I just use breadcrumbs it burns, so I combine them both and you get a perfect crusted chicken. I love the color of the meat. It turns out so juicy and flavorful. It's my husbands favorite way I make chicken. Oh the aroma when this is cooking. I love the color the chicken becomes after its cooked.

So here is everything cooking on the stove, smells heavenly!!!!

The finished product below, cannot wait to dig into the food and eat!!! Finally!! The only thing missing are fried plantains and sliced avacado on the side. I forgot those today when I went grocery shopping.